In 1997, Evelyn Worley’s son Dwight assisted her in opening a $100,000 Transfer On Death (“TOD”) account where he worked. Dwight was designated as the sole beneficiary of the account. In 2005, Evelyn signed a power of attorney (“POA”) naming Dwight as her agent. In 2008, she signed a will naming Dwight as her executor.. read more →

The Appellate Division affirmed a summary judgment ruling by a trial court in a probate lawsuit involving disputed issues of material fact relating to alleged incapacity and undue influence. In the Matter of the Estate of Tornaben, New Jersey Superior Court, App. Div., Docket No. A-5181-14T4 (Sept. 27, 2016). The Essex County Surrogate admitted the.. read more →

When Helen Weste died in 2010, she was divorced with no children. In 1994, she had executed a will leaving her estate to charities and nieces and nephews. In 2001, Helen’s health began to fail. In April 2002, family members contacted her ex-husband (who was agent under her power of attorney), and he flew in.. read more →

Vicinio v. Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks, LLC is a legal malpractice action stemming from an underlying family dispute involving the Estate of Philomena Vicinio. Philomena Vicinio’s health began to deteriorate after her husband’s death. Thereafter, Mrs. Vicinio attempted to reside with her daughter, Roseann, on several occasions, with each attempt short-lived because of.. read more →

In this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that gifts giving rise to a presumption of undue influence include gifts that strip the donor of all or virtually all his assets, and gifts to a donee on whom the donor depends. Pascale v Pascale, 113 N.J. 20 (1988) In 1939, plaintiff, John J. Pascale,.. read more →

In 1997, the decedent, Kathleen Boyer, executed a Last Will and Testament and a revocable trust. In the will, she directed that her residuary estate “pour over” into the revocable trust upon her death. She named herself as trustee of the revocable trust and, although she retained complete control of the trust assets during her.. read more →

A lawyer who was found to have exerted undue influence over his mother must reimburse her estate for legal fees and costs, along with paying prejudgment interest from the date the estate monies were wrongfully taken, an appeals court ruled. Matter of the Estate of Sogliuzzo, Docket No. A-0882-14T2 (App. Div., December 17, 2015) Jane P… read more →

A New Jersey appeals court upheld a substantial fee award exceeding the amount in controversy for work preformed by law firm in a probate litigation when representing the estate of a man manipulated into modifying his will through undue influence because the wrongdoer’s actions contributed to, and greatly increased, the time and effort required to.. read more →

Renee Halpecka died in 2005 when she was 84 years old. Before her death, Renee had been very ill for many years and was cared for by her husband. After her husband died in 2001, Rosemary Walsh, a neighbor, became Renee’s caretaker and served as her agent under a financial power of attorney and medical.. read more →

After an individual’s death, litigation regarding the decedent’s estate can arise in a variety of contexts. A common claim asserted in a lawsuit challenging the validity of a decedent’s Last Will and Testament is that the will was the result of “Undue Influence.” “Undue Influence” is defined by our courts as “’mental, moral or physical’.. read more →

Earlier this month, Hon. Robert P. Contillo, Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division, Bergen County, New Jersey, set aside a decedent’s Last Will and Testament, ruling that the Will was the result of undue influence by one of her adult children who was the principal beneficiary of the will. In doing so, Judge Contillo made.. read more →

In September 2010, I blogged about the Matter of the Estate of Jewell B. Sykes case, in which the Appellate Division concluded that family ties, without more, do not create a “confidential relationship.” That blog post can be found here. In a February 16, 2012 decision in In the Matter of the Estate of John.. read more →

In the December 13, 2011 Estate of Sano Chancery Division case, the decedent’s wife had sued the decedent’s former employee (Ms. Chung) and that employee’s sister (Ms. Choi), claiming that they defrauded and unduly influenced the decedent to change a beneficiary designation of a $2.5 million life insurance policy. The policy had originally named the.. read more →

  Several weeks ago, on Sunday, November 20th, I was a guest on The Caring Generation, a radio show airing on 630 KHOW-AM, a Talk Radio Station broadcasting from Denver, Colorado, and on the internet. The show is hosted by Pamela D. Wilson, who identified herself as the “Care Navigator.” The Caring Generation is about.. read more →

I compiled my selections for the top ten (10) New Jersey estate and probate litigation / will contest cases in 2010. For those cases I previously blogged about, a link to the blog post as well as the case is included below. (1)    Matter of the Estate of Jewell B. Sykes, Docket No. A-1109-09T2 (App… read more →

As an elder law attorney, I receive many inquires from potential clients asking me to evaluate a potential lawsuit against a sibling involving a deceased parent’s estate plan. The claim typically seeks to set aside a deceased parent’s will as invalid, the result of undue influence by a sibling. Typically, the potential client seeking a.. read more →

The concept of what constitutes a “confidential relationship” (one of the elements creating a presumption of undue influence) was examined by the New Jersey Appellate Division in Matter of the Estate of Jewell B. Sykes, N.J. App. Div. No. A-1109-09T2 (Aug. 19, 2010). In Sykes, the decedent’s daughter/co-executor (“Evelyn”) challenged the validity of two leases.. read more →

New Jersey estate planning attorneys were again reminded of the conflict of interest minefield they face in In Re Buscavage, N.J. App. Div. No. A-6041-08AT3 (Aug. 25, 2010). Buscavage involved a challenge to trust amendments made by the decedent, Joseph Buscavage, in the final year of his life, which favored certain members of his family,.. read more →

Most of the cases discussed on this blog (and, I suspect, on most blogs which spotlight developments in the law) focus principally on decisions issued by the higher-level courts, the appellate courts and the supreme court of the state.  However, the majority of court decisions in New Jersey and other states are issued by trial.. read more →

In the recent case of Rossius v. Krasheninnikoff, plaintiff filed a complaint in which she alleged undue influence by the defendant upon the decedent after she discovered that defendant had obtained letters testamentary from the Ocean County Surrogate’s Court by falsely claiming that he was kin to the decedent. After a three day trial, the.. read more →

When developing your estate plan, it is important to recognize the possibility that, after your death, that plan could be challenged by those who expected more favorable treatment from you under your Last Will and Testament. For example, if you choose not to leave your estate equally to all of your children under your will,.. read more →

If a client chooses not to leave his estate equally to his heirs, or even to disinherit one or more of the children from any distribution of estate assets, the client’s estate attorney can take steps now to minimize the risk of a future challenge to the will. Such challenges usually involve claims that the.. read more →

A New Jersey appeals court overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the defendants improperly created a supplemental needs trust, allowing the defendants limited access to the plaintiff’s psychotherapy records in order to rebut her claim that the trust’s settlor did not think she needed a trust. Laubach v. Quinn (N.J. Super. Ct. App… read more →

In the Matter of the Estate of Madeleine Stockdale, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered the circumstances in which it is appropriate to award punitive damages against a party in a court proceeding who has engaged in undue influence in the creation of a will or testamentary trust, or in improperly securing an gift of.. read more →